March 4,2016: Swarna Bharat Party’s President, Vishal Singh, said that India’s mining policy needs a total reset. Each mines give jobs (including unskilled jobs) to hundreds, even thousands of people. Mines boost local service sector jobs, leading to improved nutritional outcomes for the poor within a radius of 50-100 kms from a mine. Exploration and mining on a large scale can also create lakhs of downstream jobs in mineral processing and use.
India’s land mass has much in common with Western Australia, which is rich in a range of minerals. Unfortunately, successive governments have restricted exploration and India’s mineral wealth remains largely unexplored after 65 years of independence. The Modi government also remains oblivious to the vast potential of the mining sector.
India remains close to the bottom of the world on indicators of per capita mineral and energy consumption, key indicators of prosperity. India also has no strategic mineral policy, forcing us to import even basic minerals like coal and iron ore, of which India has some of the largest known reserves.
Mr Vishal Singh said that mineral exploration is an extremely high risk venture and needs incentives, not the kind of disincentives we have imposed on the industry. Royalties should be set at a level that allows profitability and viability. Mineral exploration licences should be given on a first-come-first-served basis, except in the case of mineral deposits which are fully mapped: in such cases auctions can be considered. Of course, all licences should comply with requirements for environmental protection and consultation with the community.
The most urgent policy changes needed are to make exploration and mining licences fully transferable in the open market and to require all mineral exploration companies to be listed on the BSE. The stock market will get rid of any unethical companies. In addition, the government should commission and publish large-scale mapping of mineral resources to reduce uncertainty for potential investors and motivate investment.
Unfortunately, we have such restrictive policies that many Indians and international junior exploration companies are investing in mineral exploration in Africa and South America, and in mining in Australia, but not in India. This is an absurd situation. The government must urgently liberate the industry from government created shackles.
Mr. Singh said that in summary, India needs a modern and investor-friendly Mineral Act, a sensible tax structure for mining and a good regulatory regime that ensures environmental protection even as jobs and growth are given a huge boost. He committed that SBP will liberate the mining sector to enable India to become a Sone Ki Chidiya, once again.